Yankees manager Aaron Boone and Astros skipper A.J. Hinch each spoke with the media today and divulged the upcoming starting pitching plans of their respective organizations. The teams have each named starters through the first three contests in the American League Championship Series.
Game 1, tomorrow night in Houston, will feature Masahiro Tanaka and Zack Greinke. The 30-year-old Tanaka has had his share of ups and downs in recent seasons, but turned in a strong effort against the Twins in the ALDS (one earned run in five innings with seven strikeouts and one walk). Greinke, who was acquired with a series like this in mind, struggled badly in his first postseason showing with his new team. But he’s one of the game’s most experienced hurlers and remains vested with quite a lot of trust.
Thereafter, the clubs will turn the ball over to their best starters. James Paxton goes against Justin Verlander in game 2, while Luis Severino will square off against Gerrit Cole in game 3, the first contest at Yankee Stadium. There’s little doubt that Houston’s co-aces have the advantage on paper, but the Yankees duo is also amply talented.
Each of the six pitchers listed above will be faced with a massive challenge. As Greinke put it today, in typically dry manner, “it’s tough to get good hitters out than not as good hitters.” Both lineups (and benches) are loaded with good hitters.
Unless these starters can fill up a lot of frames, the two teams’ bullpens could end up getting a workout as well. That has the potential to make things quite interesting in game 4. Neither team has a clear, high-end starting option ready to run out after their top three arms. Even if the Astros roll with Jose Urquidy, he’ll be going on a short leash with expectations of leaning on multiple relievers. While the Yankees can get some length from Luis Cessa and/or Jonathan Loaisiga, they’ll likely be attempting a true bullpen game in a high-stakes situation.